We were minutes away from shutting up our doors last thing on a Friday night after 9 straight days of sixteen hour shifts across the whole of Newcastle, Northumberland, down as far as Middlesborough, up as far as Berwick and pretty much very where else in between. We were broken and, in the case of this particular investigator, looking forward to the five consecutive days off that were planned and minutes away from kicking in.
Then the phone rang:
“Hi. Are you the so-called private investigator that abducted my client’s son from somewhere called ‘The Metrocentre’ this morning and caused my client to get arrested?”
No. We most certainly weren’t……………. But let’s flash back four days:
We received a phone call late on a Monday afternoon from a gentleman in London. Let’s call him ‘Brian’.
‘Brian’ claimed that he’d gone through a contentious break-up with his girlfriend and a bitter custody battle relating to their young son. He said that there was a court order in place stating she could not take his son out of London but that she’d disappeared with him and was now living somewhere in Gateshead with a man she’d met on a dating app.
‘Brian’ stated that he needed his ex-partner located so that she could be formally served with court documents demanding the return of his son and for her to be put before the courts for breaching a court order. We confirmed with ‘Brian’ whether he had legal representation and he said he did. We encouraged him to let them lead on this, draw up the relevant paperwork, engage us for service themselves and for him to take a back seat.
‘Brian’ stated that his solicitors had told him that he had to do all of this himself. This didn’t ring true to us at all. We asked him if we could have his solicitors’ details. He said they were away on holiday. We asked for at least the firm they worked for. He claimed they were “a lone wolf” and didn’t work for a company.
Our alarm bells were ringing massively and we politely said that we wouldn’t be able to help. We said to ‘Brian’ that we were not going to trace his ex-partner and then hand her location over to him directly because we had no assurance whatsoever it was for lawful reasons and under these circumstances we wouldn’t provide her details to him without her permission anyway.
‘Brian’, clearly with sad violin music swelling in his own mind, said “What do I need to do for you to help me?” We said amongst other things we’d like his solicitors contact details and to see a copy of this court order. ‘Brian’ complied…
… but actually what he sent across was not a court order showing his ex could not take his child out of London. It was a harassment order in his ex-girlfriend’s name, against ‘Brian’ himself clearly stating that he could not directly or indirectly make contact with her in any way and all issues surrounding their child needed to go through an appointed intermediary.
We got back in touch with ‘Brian’ the next morning, initially questioned the absence of this court order he mentioned but also pointed out that the harassment order made it a complete no-go for us. We said that the ‘indirect’ contact mentioned in it would actually apply to his hiring of us and he could be in serious trouble by proxy. We strongly advised he did not proceed with his attempts to locate her in the manner he was going about and we said that we would be emailing his legal representative to make clear that we had taken this stance.
Which we did.
‘Brian’ then got in touch and said that we’d “deliberately mislead” him as he’d found someone via Gumtree who was a “private detective in Gateshead”, who “would do it for a hundred quid” and that “there was nothing wrong” with what ‘Brian’ was asking to be done. We tried our best to explain that whoever was now advising ‘Brian’ was not accurate and for him to tread carefully. ‘Brian’ wouldn’t listen.
And thus two days later we received a phone call from a very agitated solicitor down South asking if we were the same PIs who, under her client’s instruction, had abducted the child from the Metrocentre in Gateshead.
We explained we most certainly were not, that we’d emailed this very solicitor to say that we’d been approached by their client, that his requests did not meet our ethical or legal standards and that we were happy to engage with the solicitors themselves to discuss why we’d come to this decision or how else we could help in the future. The solicitor apologised and said that they were “behind in [their] correspondence currently” and apologised for not getting back to us.
The solicitor went on to explain to us that ‘Brian’ had found a so-called PI who’d been willing to work to his instruction regardless of the harassment order in place and, between the two of them, had concocted a plan in which the ‘Gumtree Gumshoe’ would locate his ex, monitor her movements, then remove the child from her however possible and drive him back down to London to be reunited with ‘Brian’.
And that’s what they went ahead with – only for the ‘Gumtree Gumshoe’ to end up getting arrested for attempting to snatch the son, confessing everything to the police and for Metropolitan Police officers to turn up later that day to arrest ‘Brian’ too. Rather infuriatingly the solicitor wanted to know if this awful excuse for a PI was one of ours.
He absolutely (thankfully) was not!
There’s a moral to this ‘war story from the trenches’ and it is that due diligence and pre-case assessment is absolutely imperative. It would have been so easy for us to take the phone call from ‘Brian’ and to take him at his word then jump straight into an electronic trace, email him across his ex’s new address and not worry about the consequences as to whether this would lead to awful retributive crimes being carried out against her.
But that’s not how we work and it’s not how ANY private investigator should work.
If you’ve got a problem we WILL help you solve it: Lawfully and proportionately. And only if your enquiry passes our initial validation checks.